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Reading event paper: Derek Walcott

Natasia DaSilva

Professor Agabian

Creative Nonfiction

15 May 2014

Evening Reading: Derek Walcott

Derek Walcott is a mixed-race poet from the Caribbean and is a writer, playwright and primarily a poet. A few months ago he participated in one of the evening readings at Queens College and read snippets from his poems called “White Egrets” and “Midsummer”. He also talked about his experiences being a poet and the method he uses to write a poem, essay, poem, etc. His mother was a teacher and encouraged him to chase his dreams of being a writer and inspired in him a love for poetry. His father also was supportive of him as well. Many of his poems draw from his experience of living in the Caribbean, have religious themes as well as talk about his life. In fact, he even said the meter of his poems is inspired by Caribbean music, which I thought was rather interesting.

“White Egrets” is a sad poem and is about how the poet’s lover has grown old. Now, the lover and the poet sit across from each other in wheelchairs and cannot engage in acts of love. They can never be together because they are separated by the chasm that is old age. The “Midsummer” poem is about feeding fire to his poem and how his father was kind of his muse because he was also an artist of sorts. His father painted and wrote. The poems sounded very meaningful coming from the poet’s wise, older voice and he said them with great emotion. Walcott said he felt that the more you read the poem, the more you could glean from it.

Walcott has many accomplishments. He has written over twenty plays as well as published books and poems. Poetry, however, was his first love and seems to be the kind of writing Walcott is most passionate about it. He compares writing poetry to unleashing an overflowing of emotions and just spilling it onto the paper. He also compares himself to a carpenter because constructing poetry’s structure, meter, etc is important. Walcott truly is a wordsmith.

Creative Nonfiction Paper FINAL

Natasia DaSilva

Creative Nonfiction

Professor Nancy Agabian

19 February 2014

Mistakes That Can Change Your Life

The other day I sat in a chair, like the one they use at the dentist’s office, with a lense placed over my eye. The man at the other end was the cornea specialist I always go to –Richard Gibraltar. He was adjusting a laser beam that would create a microscopic hole in my iris in a procedure called an iridotomy. Iridotomies are usually used when people are at risk for or have acute narrow angle glaucoma due to something called a “…pupillary block…” (“Prognostic Factors for the Success of Laser Iridotomy for Acute Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma”). Factors Since my pupil’s muscles were damaged due to two massive eye infections, my pupil does not move as well as it used to. To help fluid movement in my eye, my eye doctor had to create a tiny hole in my iris with a laser. This hole acts almost like a faux pupil and helps to keep my eye pressure down. If I don’t keep my eye pressure down, it could severely damage my eye’s retina and I could go totally blind in one eye. Unfortunately in that eye, I already have blurred vision, even with glasses on. I miss the days when both my eyes functioned almost perfectly before my second massive infection.

When I was just a baby, I apparently had a strange, isolated infection in my right eye. This infection caused me to have severe inflammation in the posterior section of my eye and, as a result, it scarred down some muscles in the back part of my eye that helped it dilate. When I was around ten, my eye doctor discovered the issue when he tried to dilate my right eye’s pupil with some drops. The pupil would not dilate like a regular pupil. After that appointment, my doctor said I most likely had a condition caused by uveitis, which is simply inflammation in the eye.  I remember I was in complete shock when I learned about it because my parents never noticed or suspected that I had a severe eye infection. Often, people develop uveitis when they have some kind of autoimmune disorder or have a major infection (Mayo Clinic). The only eye infection I had heard of at that age was pink eye and just about everyone gets pink eye. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about it, even with all the steroid drops he had me take. The scarring never went away and remains with me till this day. I noticed a long time ago that I had bad night vision in that eye but never understood why until that appointment. It was particularly noticeable when I was outside in an area without any street lights, such as a forest or a country road. The outlines of objects in the moonlight were always much sharper in my left eye than in my right.

Later on, I had another massive infection but this time it was my own fault. I started wearing contacts around the age of fifteen. For awhile, everything went smoothly with them. I remembered to take them off at night and also to clean them with saline solution if I noticed any dirt on them. However, once when I was at my father’s house in Fresh Meadows, I noticed that he did not have any spare saline solution I could put my contacts in. Being the creative fifteen year old I was, I decided to improvise. Instead of using the right solution, I decided to leave my contacts in just plain water for the night. “Why not?”, I thought. “It’s just water anyway!”. I never considered that maybe the water could have bacteria.

The next day, I put my contaminated contacts in and went about my day as usual. Nothing happened until I accidently fell asleep with the dirty contacts in. Sometimes I fall asleep watching television and, unfortunately, I had done so while still wearing my contacts. When I woke up, my eyes were very red and looked infected. I then took my contacts out and wore my glasses the rest of the day. It hurt my eyes to look at light. I remember trying to get my dad to take me to the doctor but he said I should just wait it out. He even put in some eye steroids  he had to help clear up the inflammation. Unfortunately, it only made my eye feel more irritated and red.

When I went back upstate to my mother’s house, she still didn’t take me to the doctor! She tried to shine a flashlight in my eye but the light hurt too badly so I just shut my eye. It was only when my eye started oozing pus a few days later that she decided to rush me to the emergency room. Both my parents probably thought that the infection would clear up on its own. I remember feeling pretty angry because there was something clearly wrong with my right eye. My parents were never the coddling type but I still think they should have paid more attention and taken me to the hospital earlier. It could possibly have led to less damage to my right eye. Today they feel that they made a mistake in not acting more quickly but my mother blames my father more since he gave me eye steroids that were not even prescribed. She regrets she wasn’t more aware of what was really going on with my eye, which caused her to not act as quickly as she could have. She did not feel that much urgency because, at first, it looked just like pink eye.

While I was in the emergency room, I was put in a hospital bed and an opthamologist was called in to give me emergency antibiotic drops to help clear up the infection. When she saw my red and oozing eye, she was in shock and brought my mother and stepfather outside for a serious talk. When I heard the words “brain” and “aggressive”, my heart started racing and I definitely had a mini panic attack. When she came back out, she quietly explained to me that this was the worst eye infection she had seen throughout her years of practice and that it was a very aggressive kind of bacteria. I did feel pretty shocked at those words since I figured she must have seen worse things in her life as an ophthalmologist; she looked to be about fifty years old. After she put some drops in my eye, I was sent home and was given instructions to put drops in every hour for six hours. That night, I did not sleep and my mother or stepfather came in every hour to help me put drops in my eye. The atmosphere in general that night was very tense because none of us were certain if I was going to lose my eye or not.

After a week of recovery and plenty of drops, my ordeal with the infection finally ended. I did not lose total vision in that eye. However, I did end up with a pretty extensive corneal scar from the ulcer I had and a cataract from all the eye steroids I had to take to put in to combat the inflammation. The scar does interfere with my life and it affects both my vision and balance since one side of my vision is very different from the other, even with glasses on. Sometimes it causes me to trip over things because my field of vision is more limited. Once, I tripped downstairs because I did not notice a handrail on my right hand side. I also have a harder time with hand-eye coordination and focusing on objects. Typically, a normal-sighted person has a similar quality of vision in both eyes and this makes it a lot easier to focus on an object. Usually, the vision in both eyes will combine to create an image. Since one of my eyes is much stronger than the other, my eyes don’t really do this and causes me to have a lack of depth perception.

Like with many other handicaps, I have had to adjust my life around living with impaired vision. For example, I try to use my left eye more and pay more attention to my surroundings. When I have to aim at something, I also close my right eye and then my left eye so I can throw it more accurately; this allows me to account for the discrepancy in my vision. Since I don’t have normal vision anymore, I have to do things like constantly look around when crossing the street and turning my head more so see things more clearly on my right side. I do have some limited vision on my right side so I do sometimes use my right eye but this becomes much harder at night. At night, I try to have someone walk with me or be with friends. I never listen to music or text with my phone because I have limited vision; all my senses need to be uninhibited when I am out. Besides having to be more aware, I also go to the eye doctor at least twice a year and, more recently, I have to have an iridotomy procedure once a year. The iridotomy itself is not a very painful procedure and only takes a few minutes. My regular eye doctor, Dr. Richard Gibraltar, keeps track of my eye pressure as well as the growth of my cataract, which I will probably eventually have to get removed.

However, I am glad that I have at least some vision and have not been pronounced legally blind. The situation I have been placed in has made me cherish what vision I do have left, and I am happy that I can still do the things that I enjoy, such as reading and watching movies. If I got an infection in both my eyes, my life would be even more limited and I would be very depressed with having blurry vision in both eyes. Thankfully, with some stroke of luck, only one of my eyes got an ulcer that day and not the other. Even though I wish I never had an infection in the first place, I would not be the strong person I am today if I never went through that painful experience. It is kind of an odd way to think but I feel that vision is so valuable and even seeing colors is a gift.  I could not imagine living in a totally blind world or a world where all images are distorted from scarring in both eyes. Many people take vision for granted but, after you almost lose it, it changes your whole perspective.

Bibliography

Lee, Jong, Jung Lee, and Kyoo Lee. “Prognostic Factors for the Success of Laser Iridotomy for Acute Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 4 Dec. 2009. Web. 11 May 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2789954/>.

“Uveitis.” Risk factors. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2014.

<http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uveitis/basics/risk-factors/con-20026602>.

 

Calonne piece

I like the Calonne piece and its talk about ancient and current thinkers and writers. I thought it was interesting when he compared Athenian and Apollonian thinkers. He also talks about extensive the writing process is for even famous writers. I also believe that writing is a process and not something that you can just do in a rush. First, you must write but later on it is important to revise the language or include more information where needed.

Post #18

I believe that Faidman’s discussion about editing was the most helpful to me because it discusses how important editing is in the process of writing. He is surprised when his editor notices some many mistakes and different ways to word things. Editing is important because it helps make your language more readable as well as enjoyable because readers won’t have to struggle with awkward or unclear writing. Hampl’s piece was interesting to me because it emphasizes the use of description in autobiography and/or fiction. It really fleshes out a story. I was thinking for my essay that I could include both aspects of shortening sentences but also adding details to where it is needed.

“Vanishing Night” and “Apocalypse Now”

I thought the first piece “Vanishing Night” was slightly hostile. The author pretty much just addresses the negative aspects of light pollution and how problematic it can be for people living in cities. He talks about it affecting animals’ circadian rhythms, human sleeping patterns, etc. The author clearly is in support of the decline of light pollution and doesn’t mention at all some of the positive aspects lights in cities bring. He describes light pollution as a result of “bad lighting design” and it speaks of it in directly negative terms. To someone who would not agree with this, this article might illicit a negative, or hostile, reaction because it doesn’t really make concessions so much to the other side of the argument.

I feel that “Apocalypse Now” was a much more balanced piece. The author addresses the differences between the ideas of humanist and religious thinkers but also addresses the similarities of each. The author’s argument is that people must protect the natural environment, whether they be religious or non-religious. He encourages the working together of these two groups towards protecting the environment. He also addresses the success different evangelical groups towards putting together programs to protect the environment and raising money for different causes. I think that readers would react more neutrally to this piece because it doesn’t really attack either side of the argument. It goes about things in a somewhat balanced way, even though it is clearly written through the perspective of a humanist thinker.

“On Seeing England for the First Time” and similar readings

The Jamaica Kincaid piece and the George Orwell piece stood out to me the most here. Jamica Kincaid talked about her years in Antigua and her learning all about England. Since England conquered them, her culture glorified England and made it seem like such an amazing piece. However, this is not so. It really isn’t that amazing of a place. When Jamaica goes there, she sees how dirty it is and how congested it really is. It is not the place of her imaginings. She is angry because her culture is considered inferior and she is made to take on English ways. England is the dominant culture because they are the conqueror of Antigua, or were. Even though they have left, they still have some power over the small island.

The George Orwell piece is different because it is in the eyes of the conqueror. The narrator in the piece is an English officer and he is pressured to shoot an elephant because it is rogue and running around everywhere. The Indian crowd pressures him to shoot the elephant and he does. He does not want to look weak in front of them and does this to save face. Weirdly enough, the Indians have more power over him in this case. He wants to save face and he gives into their demands. He also seems them as lesser because he is English and the Indian culture along with its brown people are considered to be lesser in general and more primitive.

Dalton And Bliss

Dalton’s piece “White Skin Privilege” talks about how white people have privilege because they are the oppressors, originally.  It also talks about how white, particularly WASPS, don’t really have an identity so much because they never really had to band together like blacks, Hispanics, etc. They were never challenged in that way before. Whites try to appropriate other identities, according to Dalton, because they lack a culture. Their culture encompasses America; their culture is American culture. There is also some discussion of the difference between white and ethnicity. Personally, I thought that this author’s argument was somewhat ineffective and I thought he was judgmental. White people can have their own individual cultures and traditions. I also did not understand the distinction between white ethnics and white people; he set them apart yet he put them under an umbrella of white privilege? That makes no sense to me. Also many white people have multiple ethnicities within their families so technically they do have an identity; their religion may also form a major part of their identity as well or personal belief system.

Bliss’s piece was also pretty confusing. I got the sense that she wants to end racism between black and white specifically. I thought that her family was interesting because she had both black and white family members. I liked the stories she included in the piece because it showed her uncomfortable feelings with having a black cousin that both loved her and also resented having white family. I think she also wants racial categories to be less clear cut because sometimes people can fit in more categories than one. Races overlap in many ways, even in how they look. I really identified with this story because I also have a multi-racial family and have heard comments when I am out with members of my family that aren’t white. I also have a black cousin and my mother would receive comments when she took my cousin and I to places together. People would give her nasty looks because they saw a white woman caring for a black child, which I suppose isn’t a common place thing. Growing up, I never really understand it because to me she was just my cousin and I didn’t really care about her race at all.

 

Wolfson and Santorum

Wolfson and Santorum hold two opposing arguments. Wolfson is clearly in support of legalizing gay marriage while Santorum wants us to go back to a traditional family unit. Wolfson refutes the claim that gay families are unnatural and believes that everyone deserves a right to be married. He uses several examples of gay couples who have been together for years and discusses their plight. One of the central pieces to his argument is that marriage has evolved past a mere religious duty; it comes with a long list of benefits. If gay people are refused their unalienable rights, that is unjust, according to Wolfson. He also compares it to when interracial marriage was banned. I think his argument is well spoken overall and quite valid. To further back up his claims, he talks about the definition of marriage in today’s society. Santorum’s article has a more personal and emotional edge. It sounds more like the transcript of a speech than an article. Samtorum seems to rely more on statistics than Wolfson does, which is interesting. To Santorum, it is unnatural for children to grow up with parents of the same gender. This is why children need a two parent household with parents of opposite genders. He focuses much more on the children than Wolfson does in his piece. Wolfson focuses more on the rights marriage itself provides. Santorum thinks that marriage has become too much more for adults than children. He thinks it is too much for individual happiness and that people need to focus on actually creating a solid family unit. Santorum wants to protect marriages. I think both of these articles gives an interesting look at the opposing sides of the legalizing gay marriage debate. Personally, I am more for legalizing gay marriage than not. The only thing that I agree with Santorum on is that single-parent households can be problematic. It can be very difficult for a single working mom or dad to raise a child and find time for everything. However, who says that two parents of the same gender can’t raise a healthy child together? As long as the two parents are loving and nurturing, it shouldn’t be a major issue.

Post #13

Of the three essays we read for class, I thought that “Against School” and “Still Separate, Still Unequal” touched on similar themes and explored grade school education in New York City. “Against School” is about how students aren’t getting the proper education nowadays and how it prevents them from growing up because they are surrounded by other kids. On page 152, he says public education “…produce[s] mediocre intellects…” (Gatto, 152). He also puts a whole set of standards of public education and what it tries to achieve. It is all very formulaic and robotic. The author uses personal experience as well as outside sources from different people. He also includes plenty of personal reflection on the topic. On the other hand, “Still Separate, Still Unequal” focuses on the gap between education gives to blacks and Hispanics and the education provided for white people. It also talks about the segregation within the public school system: there are some schools that are filled with 90% or more black or Hispanic students. He also talks the standardized aspect of public school education and the emphasis of weird disciplinary measures, such as how Mr. Endicott shushes his students. Kozol interviews elementary school children and high school children as well as teachers themselves. He also observes how the classrooms function and he comments on how the children act. The last piece is called “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower” is about an English teacher’s experience teaching low level English classes to adults in a college. He laments on how he has to fail some students because their papers are so bad. This narrator focuses almost entirely on his own personal feelings and observations. He is very present throughout the story and his voice are strongly there.

Generation Like

I really liked this documentary and I thought it was an interesting expose on how this generation interacts with social media. I have seen and experienced a lot of what this documentary talked about. I felt that the director’s choice of interviewees was good and gave a pretty accurate snapshot about how teenagers present themselves online. I think the best example was Baby Scumbag because its interesting the lengths he goes to be entertaining, even though he is so young. Some of the content he puts up is pretty vulgar and shocked me since he looks like a 10 year old. The director wasn’t present that much in the documentary I feel and just introduced himself pretty much in the beginning. There was more focus on his interviewees and their experiences.

 

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